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Retailers are ‘too slow’ in using natural refrigerants

Supermarkets have been dealt a blow by the publication of a report that criticises them for not moving quickly enough towards natural refrigerants.

The survey by green campaign group the Environmental Investigation Agency has been condemned by many in the industry for both the accuracy of its analysis and the assumptions it makes, but it has created a wave of publicity in its call for customers to campaign for change.

To launch the survey, the EIA has called for supermarkets to ‘commit to making all new refrigeration climate friendly by the end of 2009 and all equipment by 2012.”

The survey rated Marks and Spencer and Tesco as first and second in the league table for their commitment to carbon dioxide equipment, but concluded that none of the top ten fared well enough. Although a number of retailers argued that they were hamstrung by lack of trained engineers and no tax breaks for equipment, the EIA said this was little excuse for lack of progress.

The report’s author Fionnula Walravens said: “The survey results were hugely disappointing. Even though the supermarkets know that their refrigeration chemicals are a major contributor to climate change they are not yet doing very much about it.”

Industry bodies moved to back the major retailers, criticising the report for focusing on the potential global warming impact of HFCs at the expense of the CO2 impact of energy use.

The British Refrigeration Association was trenchant in its criticism of what it called ‘a limited and less than impartial survey.” It said in a statement: “It is reminiscent of the worst of sensational tabloid journalism. It failed to recognise the huge achievements in energy efficiency both by equipment suppliers and the supermarkets themselves. Instead it focused on the potential global warming impact should the refrigerants be exposed to atmosphere, rather than the real benefits of using these safe and efficient gases to save carbon emissions.

The IOR added that it was working closely with supermarkets on its Real Zero leak reduction project, and it was confident that this would make a difference to HFC containment. President Jane Gartshore said: “Through the concerted efforts of this project, the UK refrigeration industry will have the knowledge and skills to achieve a significant reduction in a very short timescale.”